Looking closely at what the expectations are for working and being in the world, why I started teaching and being an artist to begin with and making the effort during these week to recalibrate myself --- I have listened to the podcast of On Being: Pursuit of Happiness Pursuing Happiness with the Dalai Lama from the program On Being with Krista Tippett more times than I can count. Below are some ecerpts from Rabbi Lord Saks -- one of the speackers in this conference.
Read on and think about our lives and how we struggle and wrestle constantly.
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: Yeah. It is true that if you read the Jewish literature and you read Jewish history, happiness is not the first word that comes to mind [laugh]. We do degrees in misery, post-graduate angst, and advanced guilt, and we do all this stuff, you know. And yet somehow or other when all of that is at an end, we get together and we celebrate. And where I love what His Holiness has just said, how he himself has lived a story that I resonate with, the story of suffering and exile, and yet he has come through it still smiling. And that to me is how I have always defined my faith as a Jew. The definition of a Jew, Israel is at it says in Genesis 34, one who struggles, wrestles, with God and with humanity and prevails. And Jacob says something very profound to the angel. He says, "I will not let you go until you bless me." And that I feel about suffering. When something bad happens, I will not let go of that bad thing until I have discovered the blessing that lies within it.
And this struggle is a good thing --- in fact a very good thing. When we wrestle they way that Jacob did then we are changed --- we never walk the same again.
And about prayer he says:
Lord Sacks: Obviously, in Judaism, as in all the religious traditions, there are elite forms of meditation. What really interests me, as interests you, is just the simple basic act of prayer. And prayer for me, daily prayer — three times daily. We're not quite up to five times daily [laugh] — but we're impressed. Three things happen when I pray. The first thing is thanks. You know, the first prayer we pray, "Thank you, God, for giving me back my life." The second thing is confession. You feel the ability to acknowledge your mistakes, then you grow, you learn by this. So that is the second thing. And the third thing is simply the basic experience of prayer altogether standing in the presence of a deeper form of being, knowing that this universe is not indifferent to my existence, deaf to my prayers, blind to my hopes. And when I feel in that presence of the being at the heart of being, then we experience the greatest line of all in the life of faith from Psalm 23, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." We can face the future without fear if we know we do not face it alone.
And the only power that is ever over us is the the feeling that we just might be alone with ourselves --- we never are --- we are always gathered around and held in grace.